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UPDATED: 23/12 Shishu Kontho

An online platform that aggregates and transparently maps the impacts of climate change through children’s storytelling

Photo of Corinne Schoch
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Adapting effectively to the changing climate depends on locally driven solutions; yet local popular views are rarely heard in debates that lead to national policies and strategies. The culture of listening to citizens in Bangladesh is changing but overstretched government departments and limited technical capacity often limit their ability to accommodate local views. Our project will work with young people and focus their enthusiasm for social media ensuring their views are heard. We will bridge the gap between children’s knowledge, action and policy by introducing a collaborative online platform into schools. Inspired by the ease and functionality of crowdsourcing platforms such as Ushahidi we will transform information and communication flows by placing children in the driver’s seat. By using a tool that is owned and driven by children we will help raise their voice so it is heard by decision-makers. We will collect children’s observations, stories and climate adaptive solutions and aggregate these into thematic messages (e.g. about water – its use/abuse and how to cope with rising temperatures). During emergencies or when floods are forecast risk hotspots will be identified and pinpointed in real time onto interactive maps. The results of this information will be fed via local media and through the National Children’s Parliament, to key policy makers, ensuring that there will be no excuse for policies and directives to not be sensitive to children’s concerns.

WHO BENEFITS?

Through our existing climate change programming in Dhaka we will test this model for citizen engagement in the 24 schools we work with. We will then seek to reach a far larger proportion of the 2 million children that live in urban slums in Bangladesh and we will strengthen and forge new relationships with community members, academics, policy-makers, and the media. The potential for going nationwide is clear and could be scaled-up into the cities of Khulna, Pirojpur and Kurigram where we work.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Dhaka is an urban hotspot for climate risks. Lying at just 3 meters above sea level the city is frequently exposed to urban flooding and waterlogging following intense rainfall nearly every year. In recent years, flooding has become worse and has been exacerbated by poor drainage, rapid and unplanned urbanization and the gradual filling of low-lying flood plains, rivers, and canals which were traditionally considered as areas to absorb or drain water during rainfall. Whilst Dhaka’s slum dwellers form a large proportion of the city and reside in these hotspots, their voices are rarely heard or acknowledged, and children remain almost entirely invisible. Communications between urban communities, city authorities, relevant government institutions and policy analysts are often fragmented or fractured. This constrains adaptation planning. The online platform will close the communication gap by providing children – and through them adults too – with a mechanism that enables them to inform and hold relevant bodies to account of the risks residents know about and what adaptive solutions they feel will work best. In order for the city to become climate proof, it will need to foster and nurture these communication flows between the most vulnerable and the technical and financial institutions that can help support transformative social, economic and environmental change. In essence, the platform becomes a one stop shop for children, community members, academics and policy-makers to track localised urban risks, assess solutions, prioritise actions, and monitor responses.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

My name is Corinne Schoch and I am the Climate Change Advisor for Save the Children. My interests lie in empowering children to become a part of the solution, channeling adaptation finance to local communities, and bridging the gaps between National government policy and local action.

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

Neither user-focused online platforms that respond to clear gaps in communication flows between urban communities and local government departments nor engaging youth as agents of change are new. However, the concept of doing both simultaneously-creating a scalable approach to empowering children and youth as agents of change for climate change is pioneering. The online platform takes the guess-work out of the equation by enabling children to identify a problem; report the problem through the platform; and monitor response times to ensure efficient and effective resolution of the problem by the right authorities and technical experts. It will enable children to take on a more proactive approach to climate change adaptation by becoming more aware, knowledgeable and responsive to their distinctive urban environments and ensuring that they have a secure and easy to navigate platform that empowers them to share locally appropriate climate adaptive solutions with relevant stakeholders.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

Our idea is inspired by two existing (crowdsourcing) platforms: Ushahidi and SnapSendSolve. Whilst Ushahidi was built as an open-sourced platform for justice and accountability that seeks to accurately report and map the incidences of violence across Kenya after the post 2008 election; SnapSendSolve a platform used in Australia and New Zealand aims to enable citizens to report simple local-government related incidences (e.g. graffiti, overflowing rubbish, blocked drains, fallen trees) which are directly sent to the relevant local government departments and actioned for resolution. Both platforms are easy to use and provide a secured reporting tool that aim to highlight immediate challenges and dangers. Our platform is a hybrid of these two platforms but differs in that it is owned and driven by some of the most deprived and vulnerable children across urban areas. Much like Ushahidi the platform will use a crowdsourcing approach that engages children from across Dhaka to identify and map problems in their local areas; but like SnapSendSolve will place the children in direct contact with local and relevant government departments to resolve the identified risks and challenges.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

Some unanswered questions about this idea include: • will this online platform serve to strengthen the ability of government to respond to reports made by children or instead irritate or overwhelm the authorities? • will the collected data provide meaningful results for the communities thus increasing their adaptive capacity to climate change? • will local government departments respond and accept this platform as a possible solution to their existing communication challenges. And if accepted will the solutions provided by children be assessed and actioned or simply ignored?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

An absence in policies, fractured and fragmented communication flows between urban communities, city corporations, government departments, academics and constrained financial resourcing have substantially contributed to the inadequacies in responses to these challenges. In addition to this political backdrop, the shifting environmental landscape continues to exacerbate and further expose the existing gaps that exist between relevant stakeholders. Climate change hazards such as waterlogging and heat stress which are coupled with poor water and sanitation services merely serve to compound the existing issues and further apply pressure on often under resourced government departments.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

We worked with children (aged 11-16yrs) who form part of one of our existing child’s clubs and collated their initial reactions, ideas, questions and solutions that have since informed the ongoing development of our project. Initially our online platform was meant to offer a two-way communication pathway between children from urban communities and relevant government officials so that ideas and actions could be highlighted and addressed. However, in speaking with the children they felt this idea could be taken one step further by including and linking the site to various other social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter. The children want to ensure that this entire process remains transparent but that it also becomes available to a wide range of stakeholders that are also able to comment on the issue and provide their own solutions. The children want to create a movement that whilst driven by them is made to be broader and more inclusive. They also like the idea of utilising sites such as twitter that can act as an alert system for any major upcoming event, highlighting existing risk hotspots, monitoring response times by local government, and congratulating relevant teams once a risk has been addressed and resolved. Thus, promoting their work as well as all those that have been involved. As a result we will work with a number of web designers and IT specialists to address this need and see how we can seamlessly work across several platforms to address this ask.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Our idea is a first step to amplifying children’s voice and elucidating channels of communication between their communities and relevant local government departments. To better inform decision making on child-centred community-based adaptation in urban settings. To ensure that climate sensitive solutions are driven by communities and supported by local government we will work through formalised partnerships with officials from city corporations, local NGO, community leaders and our research centre for child-wellbeing that will test the veracity of this model. Ultimately it is our aim to bring this model to scale across Dhaka and cities like Khulna, Pirojpur and Kurigram.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

The National Children’s Parliament, initially launched with support from SC now has 38,000 members, and hundreds of children trained as researchers, journalists, and facilitators. It forms a part of the advocacy wing of the National Child’s Task Force and aims to empower children and ensure their rights are protected. Traditionally focused on disaster risk reduction, they have shown demonstrable results in impacting change across national policy in child rights and health. Through this highly successful pre-existing partnership and harnessing their vast network we will work together on the collection of data and building the evidence-base and advocacy messaging necessary for influencing national policy and intimately connecting ourselves across a wide-ranging set of networks. Beyond this we aim to adapt the tool and work with the 100 Resilient Cities initiative – as their existing platform partner - to ensure that it becomes integrated across a broader set of national policies.

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Corrine!
Below is some feedback from our experts. We look forward to reading your responses!

This is a useful idea, could you please share detail on how you will use the platform to influence policy? Likewise, I would recommend that you consider designing the platform not only by working with the children users, but also by working with the intended policymaker/media audience, to ensure that it is responsive to the needs of both of these very different groups. Have you considered that as you've developed your idea? 

Photo of Corinne Schoch
Team

Hello Chioma,

These are excellent comments and questions and actually speak to the heart of what Shishu Kontho is aiming to achieve. The platform will aggregate knowledge from the perspective of children and relay this information to the relevant government departments. Initially this will be achieved by bringing together advocates from the National Children’s Parliament and government officials to review and respond to the challenges that are put forward by the children. However, as we build the evidence-base and demonstrate the relevance, importance and success of the model, ultimately we aim to embed this platform within existing city corporation practices. This would mean that problems that are raised across the platform are then sent directly across to the relevant teams within government departments that can then issue the ordinances to resolve the problem at hand. This will in part resolve two major problems: addressing the fractured communication flows that exist between communities and government departments, and ensuring that the voices of the most vulnerable are raised and heard and that locally adaptive solutions are adopted. Both the National Children’s Parliament and Save the Children have strong ties with a number of schools, media outlets, research institutions, local NGOs, and government departments that have enabled us over the years to support and achieve transformational changes for the communities that we work with. This platform will serve as an additional tool from which we can advocate for change for the most vulnerable and ensure that children’s needs are heard and their resilience built.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thanks for the detailed response Corrine! Have a happy holiday! 

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